Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairytale Cover-Up by Angela Woolfe

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Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairytale Cover-Up by Angela Woolfe

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Alex Mitchell
Reviewed by Alex Mitchell
Summary: A funny adventure story, set in a world filled with classic fairy-tale characters that have been updated in a very interesting and enjoyable way.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 272 Date: May 2020
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406391374

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After her father gets married for the umpteenth time, Roxy Humperdinck is sent to live with her half-sister Gretel in Rexopolis, capital city of the Kingdom of Illustria. Gretel works as a toilet cleaner for the Ministry of Soup. Why does a country like Illustria need an entire ministry dedicated to soup, you ask? Well, after Roxy finds a secret passage in her bathroom and meets a snarky young woman known only as Jones, she soon finds out why. Turns out, fairy tales are real, and the Ministry's official job is to safeguard all knowledge of them and monitor the living fairy tales. And, when an evil queen breaks out of a maximum-security prison and threatens to reinstate her reign of terror, Roxy and Jones hold the fate of the world in their young hands…so, no pressure then!

Updated retellings of fairy tales are nothing new; they can be traced at least back to the Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, written in 1979, and was most successfully done with the Fables comics by Bill Willingham in 2002. However, where these differ is that these are intended to be read by older audiences, where this book is for a younger pre-teen audience. If anything, the general tone of the book and the way the world is updated reminds me a lot of the Percy Jackson series. This isn't a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the Percy Jackson series.

A lot of classic fairytale characters show up in this book, and the author does handle them in rather interesting ways. The book's protagonist is Roxy Humperdinck, a rather unremarkable girl who has just moved to the big city. She has a photographic memory when it comes to things she read, which comes in handy when she needs to remember something vital (such as, if the book your friend stole got destroyed). She lives with her sister Gretel, a rather worried young woman with an intense dislike of sugar (given that she is the Gretel, as in ‘Hansel and', this is certainly an interesting way of exploring how the events of her past affect her). Roxy is aided in her adventure by Jones (a.k.a. the one and only Cinderella), a beautiful, snide young girl and wannabe treaure hunter (even though she's only been doing it a couple of days). She currently lives rent-free above a cupcake shop and does deliveries for them to get by. The banter between Roxy and Jones makes up a large chunk of the comedy in the book. Jones is also occasionally helped out by her Fairy Godmother Franky who, due to a misfired spell, is stuck looking like a ten-year-old boy. Franky is a BOBI (Being of Benign Intent), a magical entity that is not actively malicious towards anyone. There are also appearances from other characters from classic fairy tales, such as Rumplestiltskin (who runs a music shop), the wicked stepmother from Rapunzel (who placed a rhyming ad in a newspaper looking for new roommates as a replacement for Rapunzel), and Mortadella from Sleeping Beauty (who runs a Center Parcs-style holiday retreat for witches). They are certainly very interesting ways of updating the characters and I for one really liked it.

The worldbuilding is a little confusing. The book takes place in Illustria, an obviously fictional country that probably exists in around the same area where these stories originate (i.e. Denmark and Germany). Illustria was formerly known as the Cursed Kingdom, ruled by the evil witch-queen Bellissima, but something happened that made the entire world forget about everything that happened in the Cursed Kingdom, and instead associate them with fairy-tales. While other fictional countries like Parvenia and Shiny-Newland exist, real-world countries like India and the UK are also mentioned, so it's a little unclear whether the setting is part of our own world or a completely original one. The technology level is more-or-less on par with the modern world, with smartphones and the internet being relatively common, but there are some things that are probably magical in origin, such as the Instant Paralysis Lasers (which can turn you into stone) used by the Soup Ministry Official Guards (or SMOGs). The fairy-tales are a result of the Story Weavers, magicians who turned the events of the Cursed Kingdom into fairy tales, which is certainly an interesting way of explaining the origins of fairy tales. Overall, it is a little confusing at times, but doesn't detract from the story too much.

Overall, this is a very interesting, funny adventure story with plenty of nods to classic fairy tales.

Similar books by other authors:
Fables by Bill Willingham – a series of fairy tales set in the modern world, but aimed at older audiences.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – Classical mythology transplanted into the modern day, for similar-aged audiences, with a similar tone and sense of humour.

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